By Nnamdi Ojiego
AS the 2023 general elections draw closer, the contest for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governorship ticket in Akwa Ibom State is getting stiffer with more aspirants joining the race.
In fact, it has become a battle of wits as many aspirants from different blocs in the party keep pushing their interest. Not even Governor Udom Emmanuel’s ‘anointing’ of his Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, Pastor Umo Eno, as his successor, could deter others from aspiring to the position.
Those who have joined the race after the public declaration of support for Eno by the governor include the member representing Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium in the House of Representatives and former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Onofiok Luke; the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District and former Commissioner for Finance, Bassey Akpan; former Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Akan Okon; and Chief Executive Officer of Falcon Oil & Gas, Ani Wellington, among others.
Governor Emmanuel had on Sunday, January 30, 2022, at a meeting of PDP stakeholders held at the Government Lodge, Uyo, announced Eno as his preferred candidate for the 2023 election. The governor’s decision came as a huge surprise to those who had expected him to choose between Onofiok and Akpan due to their antecedents and involvement in the politics of the state.
The choice of the Land commissioner against Onofiok did not go down well with some party stakeholders and interest groups in the state who have gone ahead to pledge their support for the former speaker.
Looking at the visible PDP governorship aspirants, the pendulum may swing to Nsit Ubium Local Government Area where both Onofiok and Eno hail from. However, supporters of Onofiok said he stands a chance of grabbing the throne as he possesses the qualities needed for a governor.
It was speculated in the state that the incumbent governor would handover to Onofiok based on an unwritten agreement.
A source told Vanguard that the agreement was the reason Onofiok didn’t join the All Progressives Congress, APC, with his former boss, and immediate past governor of the state, Senator Godswill Akpabio. According to the source, the former students’ leader was a strong force behind the success stories of the Akpabio and Udom Emmanuel administrations, especially, the electoral victory of the incumbent governor in 2019.
In the face of alleged injustice, Onofiok ‘s governorship aspiration has received boost from groups and civil society organizations that have endorsed him to run for the number one position in the state.
Akwa Ibom Youths under the umbrella of Akwa Ibom Youths Mandate, adopted Onofiok as their 2023 preferred candidate.
Arising from a recent special stakeholders meeting of the organisation in Uyo, the youths stated that the lawmaker “is the only aspirant that has articulated his blueprint and has clearly demonstrated capacity, experience and ability to execute the demands of the office of the governor of Akwa Ibom State.”
Six political groups had also endorsed Onofiok. The groups – Social Justice Movement (SJM), Democratic Alternative (DA), Akwa Ibom Students Congress (AKSC), Not Too Young To Lead Parliament (NTYLP), Political Action Initiatives (PAI), and Maintaining Peace From Justice Movement (MPJM), in a joint communiqué, stressed that they were throwing their weight behind him because “he has been with the poor, the high and the mighty and still remembers that there was serious hunger in the streets of the state.
“In 2019, Oniofiok almost lost his life while defending the cause of this state. It takes someone who has the love of his people to shun all approaches to sell out the House of Assembly to the then growing opposition to impeach the governor; it takes someone who is courageous, intelligent, experienced but humble to govern a state like ours”, the communiqué stated.
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